Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back to the new blog again

Townhall cleaned up most of my complaints. I am back to blogging over there again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why I Am So Upset With The Major Dailies

Note: Blogging seems to be broken over at Townhall, it flags this post as "inappropriate" and I have no idea why. I have sent them email, maybe they will fix it.

EUREKA! I have finally been able to put my finger on exactly what has me so upset about the leaks of intelligence information in many of our major daily newspapers. I was aware that the reporting upset me and I could think of a lot of reasons why I should be upset such as the fact that it could put me and my family at risk, but none of those reasons exactly hit the root of why I was so angry. It wasn't until I logged into my online banking today that it dawned on me what it was. I feel personally violated by these exposures in the paper.

I live in a republic and as such we have people elected and appointed to act as our agents in the conduct of the business required to run a nation. As a mature and hopefully well-adjusted person, I am aware that I am placing my trust in these people to act in my stead and that some of those matters must remain secret just as I keep secret the passwords to my banking and the bank keeps secret certain measures they take on my behalf in order to keep my account safe from unauthorized use. In the case of the government, I am placing my trust in them to find people who would harm my family or members of my community and disrupt their plans or bring them to justice. These measures must remain a secret if they are to succeed. I do not have any desire or need to know exactly what they are doing at any given moment. In fact, if I am aware of what they are doing, then I consider something to be severely broken.

The people performing these operations on my behalf operate within a set of rules and have people who oversee them to make sure they stay within those limits. If they are operating within the limits, have not abused the trust placed in them, and have been successful, then all is well and there is nothing to report. These people are by proxy an extension of me. They are protecting my security. When the New York Times or some other major newspaper exposes one of these programs simply because it was secret, it is akin to exposing my bank's security measures just because they are secret. I then feel that my security has been violated, I feel more vulnerable, and those two things cause me to become angry.

What these papers have done in these exposures is to, in effect, violate the security of all Americans. How would Mr. Lichtblau or Mr. Keller feel if I wrote a piece telling everyone about the security measures that their banks use? What if I published the procedures used to access accounts, which computers were used for what purpose, where they were located, what operating systems they used and how they were interconnected to each other? What if they had installed protective measures because of past cases of fraud, theft, or other misuse and I had information about the safeguards that the bank used. What if they asked me not to publish this information because it could cause them to lose the ability to spot fraud or misuse of the system if I exposed it? What if I then exposed it anyway because I thought Mr. Lichtblau or Mr. Keller should know because banking is very important and they should know everything that goes on.

Mr Keller and Mr Lichtblau might be a little worried that their bank was more vulnerable now to abuse. And they might be angry with me if their accounts had been the victim of extremely serious misuse in the past. America's "security account" was seriously abused on 9/11 and the UK's on 7/7 and now India's on 7/11. Keller and Lichtblau have not only violated the security of every American, they have violated the security of people across the globe. They have put the people of Spain, and Bali, and Australia, and India, and the UK, and Germany and France at greater risk of attack by people who want to blow us to tiny bits and have more than once and probably will again in the future.

For this, my anger is beyond political rhetoric. It has nothing to do with a right/left political battle of ideals. It is a matter of basic public safety. These newspapers are a very real threat to the security of civilized nations around the world and it simply must stop. That they attack my government (yes, when someone tampers with my security, I regard that as an attack) when they are engaged in a legal method of protecting me, they violate my personal security. They are a direct personal threat to me and that causes an instinctive response in return.

Mr. Keller, Mr. Lichtblau, publishers, editors, and journalists across this country, I ask you please in the name of basic common human decency to please stop exposing our security measures. In fact, I would go as far as to ask you to report anyone attempting to leak this information to you because those people are trying to hurt you too. They are a threat to you and your community. From one human being to another human being, please don't kill my kids.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New Blog

I have started blogging over at Townhall. There are some minor technical nits over there (blogroll doesn't work right, can't figure out how to change/edit the skin) but I have been looking for a different place to blog for some time and Townhall seems like a fitting place. As you can tell by my infrequent updates, my blog isn't a major prioity in my life so it doesn't make sense for me to pay a hosting company.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Next Media Barrage

UPDATE AT THE END

I believe I have detected the pattern for the next media attack on the current administration. The angle is "despite turning over control to Iraqis and putting hundreds of checkpoints and patrols on the street, the violence continues unabated".

Well, that is just plain hogwash. Sure, the numbers are still high, but they are in fact much lower than they have been. June's civilian death rate was 2/3 of what May's numbers were and all of the reductions came after the imposition of "Together, forward". If you remove the one market bombing, the death rate for July is well below that of June. Since there were so many killed in that one bombing, it is left out of my own figures until about the 10th of the month for two reasons. First, with only 5 days in a month, 66 deaths in one day skews the numbers so any underlying pattern isn't visible. Secondly, the individuals that placed that bomb have been killed or captured in a raid, so we aren't likely to see any more of their work.


I use the numbers of civilian deaths reported in the news as my guide. It isn't 100% accurate, it is often overstated, sometimes the same casualties are reported twice but overall, since the same mistakes are made fairly evenly over the months, it still provides a general idea of civilian deaths. Morgue counts aren't used because those tend to include insurgents, civilians, police and others.

May civilian deaths: 970 ( more than 30 per day)
June civilian deaths: 738 ( less than 25 per day)
July rate without Baghdad market bombing: ( less than 13 per day)

Extrapolated for the month and the 66 deaths in the Baghdad added back in, we are looking at something close to 460 deaths for July at the current rate. It is early in the month and 4 days is too few from which to extrapolate the entire month, but the trend is clear and the trend is down regardless of what the news is going to attempt to feed us using their own casualty figures. Note that casualty figures for Iraqi military and police are also trending down albeit more slowly and that is to be expected as they take the lead in more areas and are more exposed to dangers.

According to AFP today some 20 insurgent groups are prepared to begin negotiations and have been in various forms of contact with the government. That bodes well for future reductions in casualty counts as well.

The strategy of the press now is to portray the Iraqi government as a failure, present an image of hopelessness of our cause there, it can't be won, things keep getting worse, blah, blah, blah. Problem with that is, so far there doesn't seem to be any real evidence of it.

Today's blog entry was going to be another one about how our media doesn't care if they get people killed in order to futher their agenda but I have been saying that for months already in previous postings and others are birddogging that issue. What is most most important is what appears to be an overall media strategy of constant hammering of the Bush administration.

They are apparently using a two-pronged strategy at this point. One angle is to portray all efforts in Iraq as either outright failure, or to attempt to mitigate any appearance of success. This is due to polling results that show the main reason for low approval ratings is the progress in Iraq. Therefore, it is important to them that they show little or no progress whenever possible. The second angle is to portray President Bush as constantly overstepping his authority as President. They rely on the public having a short memory to do this. Shortly after 9/11 the media presented many articles giving suggestions on what must be done to better protect Americans against terrorism. Independent panels such as the 9/11 Commission also proposed similar ideas. When these are put into practice, the media then attempts to portray them as an administration acting beyond its authority and out of control.

What it seems to boil down to is that the news media assumes the American public is stupid, can't think for itself, can't remember what was said yesterday, and only knows what they are told in today's paper. It is also obvious that they have decided to engage directly in the political process by actively supporting one political party against another. While that isn't unusual or even a bad thing when a single paper does it, it is a bad thing when companies which own dozens of media outlets do it. Sometimes an outlet is the only paper in town. It really is no wonder we have seen such a grown of online media. It is about the only way for people to get enough information to make an intelligent decision. Our hometown newspaper editors think we are stupid and are spoon-feeding us propaganda.

UPDATE:

I read with interest a Reuters story out today that says 1,595 bodies were processed by Baghdad morgues last month. The story attempts to correlate that number directly to violence. I say not so fast. Baghdad is a large city with nearly 6 million residents. Now consider what would happen in the US in a city that large with temperatures over 110 degrees and no electricity for air conditioning. Might we experiance an upsurge in deaths here? Here is what the story says in the first two paragraphs:

Jul 5, 2006 — BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Baghdad's central morgue received 1,595 bodies last month — the highest number since the February bombing of a Shiite shrine sparked a wave of sectarian killings, a morgue official said on Wednesday.

The figures show the level of violence in Iraq has increased even after the killing on June 7 of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air strike.

The second paragraph explicitly attempts to tie the 1595 bodies to increased violence when in fact, violence in the second half of the month was well below the first half of the month. The article goes on to state that 1375 bodies were processed in May and 1155 in April. Nationwide, reported civilian deaths from violence was up 180 from April to May but was significant was a shift in attacks to concentrate on Baghdad. So while Baghdad deaths probably did go up from April to May, that would have had nothing to do with Zarqawi's death as he wasn't killed until June.

This article is a lie. It is actually a classical piece of psyops. They give you a figure and attempt to have you believe it is a completely different figure. They give you the aggregate number of bodies processed at morgues but don't tell you how many were civilians, how many were police or Iraqi army, how many were insurgents, how many died from violence, how many died of illness or heat related complications, etc. They imply that the number of bodies brought to morgues in June were all related to violence. Did they take into account that in a city of 6 million people in heat over 100 degrees there might be more than a couple of hundred heat related deaths particularly among the old and sick? Apparently not. Here is what happened in Chicago in 1995 during the heatwave there:

Hundreds of victims never made it to a hospital. The most overcrowded place in the city was the Cook County Medical Examiners Office, where police transported hundreds of bodies for autopsies. The morgue typically receives about 17 bodies a day and has a total of 222 bays. By Saturday—just three days into the heat wave—its capacity was exceeded by hundreds, and the county had to bring in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to store the bodies. Police officers had to wait as long as three hours for a worker to receive the body. It was gruesome and incredible for this to be happening in the middle of a modern American city.

...

In 1995 there were no uniform standards for determining a "heat related death," so officials had to develop them. Edmund Donoghue, Cook County's chief medical examiner, used state-of-the-art criteria to report 465 heat-related deaths for the heat wave week and 521 heat deaths for the month of July.



So with Baghdad today at 109 and calling for temperatures over 110 by the end of this week, might one expect a rise in the number of people brought to morgues? I would.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Markos Meltdown

I have been watching the events surrounding a feud between The Daily Kos and The New Republic with some interests. Lee Siegal has posted some thoughts on the subject which spawned a few thoughts of my own that I thought I might jot down here.

While I would agree with Siegal to some extent, I believe he is painting with too broad a brush in his criticism of blogs and blogging. To use my particular case as an example, I am not a writer but I do have opinions and blogs provide me with a forum to express them, feeble as my attempts at it might be. Not being a wordsmith, what I build will not be as pretty nor as durable but it will convey the general idea.

Now I do agree that there is a certain herd mentality when it comes to certain blogs and bloggers. But I would also say that there are many who do read blogs that hold different views because that is how one learns. And there are those of us who would offer debate when we encounter differing opinions as it is how we plumb the ideas behind those opinions and behind our own opinions as well.

There is one thing that I will agree strongly with, though. There is a group which when encountering an opinion which differs from theirs, seems to take the difference of opinion as some kind of personal invalidation. They respond to a different opinion as if they have been personally attacked and often get defensive or worse, feel a need to launch a "counter-attack" when no attack on them was intended. I believe this is a result of one holding one's opinions too closely to their sense of self. In order to be healthy, one must be able to learn and allow their opinions to adapt and change as we evolve over the years. If we stand our personal identity on our opinions, we become rigid in our thinking and changing of opinion shakes the foundations of self identity and can cause emotional problems not the least of which is irrational behavior when confronted with alternative points of view. In that case, one must defend one's positions tooth and nail even in the face of clear information that our opinion might be wrong. We would become angry at the one who would show us our conclusions are incorrect and lash out at them. One would then either submit to the new information, accept its validity, and become lost as their former sense of self has been shattered and flail about seeking some new way to define their identity or they simply close their minds to the new information, gang together with others holding the same view, stick their collective fingers in their ears and throw rocks at anyone who dares threaten their conclusions. At this point their conclusions and opinions become religion. They are held in faith without any basis in logic.

The opinions at Kos are really religions beliefs rather than logical conclusions and the reaction you are witnessing from them is the same as that when someone's religion is attacked. I challenge you to go on any of the blogs in that circle and speak "heresy". Blasphemy will be punished swiftly with excommunication and you will be banned from the blog and your comments deleted. They are not interested in debate, they are not interested in defending or evolving or learning. They believe they have it right and anyone attacking their beliefs is attacking them personally and they respond as such. There is plenty of evidence of this behavior both on their website and on the blogs of others who would criticize them.

In fact, should one of them read this they might well feel a need to attack me and I have not even called their beliefs into question. They might want to ponder why that is. I suspect that by saying that they are operating on faith rather than logic they might believe I have somehow belittled their beliefs when all I have done is note the existance of the behavior and not passed judgment on it. I am willing to bet, though, that it caused a limbic reaction because their beliefs are a very tender spot to them, it is their very self identity and people are naturally protective of that. In other words, one would possibly get the same reaction from any other "fundamentalist" in any other belief system when their beliefs are commented on by an "outsider". I submit that the Kos Kids are "Fundamentalist Liberals" and react the same as a religious (or any other) fundamentalist does when their beliefs are argued with logic.

I am interested in seeing Markos answer one question. The question I would ask him is "What are you?". I would, if asked, say "Dad" or "an engineer". My identity doesn't reside on a foundation of political opinion so I can adapt a lot easier, accept criticism, engage in debate, leave a debate alone, modify my position, learn things. I suspect Markos' answer might be "A Liberal". And that would explain a lot of his behavior when his political views are challenged.

Friday, June 23, 2006

New York Times: ENOUGH!

I have had most of the day to ponder the latest attack on American perpetrated by the New York Times and still I am having trouble putting an exact word to my feelings on the issue. ENOUGH, was as close as I could come. I find their behavior almost juvenile and at the same time patronizing and pompous. That an editor or journalist would pretend to weigh what value an intelligence gathering operation has against the enemy's need to know about it and decide that the enemy's knowledge is more important that preserving the secrecy of the program is extremely frustrating. They make no claims of wrongdoing. They expose no instances of someone making personal gain from the program. They present no evidence of mismanagement. They simply expose the program for the sake of exposing it. They themselves would use the exposure of this program to attempt to create a story to enrich themselves at the public expense. They are the criminals in this expose. Should it become evident that someone be killed in the future because of this disclosure, The New York Times will have blood directly on their hands.

Their behavior is like that of a playground bully who would hurt someone just because they know they can get away with it, and then does it again and again. And as is the case with the playground bully, I sincerely hope they receive a very hard smackdown.

I never elected The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times to executive office. I don't remember designating them the power to decide what is and what is not in the interests of the defense of this country. I don't recall them being delegated the authority to declassify information. But what upsets me most is that their article does nothing to protect the interests of Americans. Because it lacks any evidence of abuse or wrongdoing, the only service this article provides is to our enemies.

I would warn the investors of The New York Times that they might want to consider the safety of their investment. The business is obviously in the hands of people with questionable integrity, values, and possibly mental capacity. They would take actions that would endanger their community, their neighbors, their friends, and their families for what appears to be nothing. They would make it easier for an enemy to gather the financial resources needed to attack our country. What would such an attack do to your investment? What would such an attack do to your other investments? What about investment markets in general? The people at The New York Times have the potential to do great damage to the economic system in this country though their intelligence operations on behalf of groups that would want to do us damage.

If it were in my power to do so, I would order the New York Times razed to the ground. It is much more of a liability than it is an asset to this country. Until such time as the individuals at The New York Times can grow up and behave as responsible members of their community I would caution anyone from doing business of any sort with them. If they would expose themselves as individuals of such small integrity in their duty as responsible human beings to protect their own community, I can imagine they would care even less about anyone they are engaged in business with.


I am also very angry. The thought that just came to my mind is how proud I would be to serve my community as a witness to the execution for treason of certain employees of that organization.

ENOUGH

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Trouble With Numbers

I am rather tired of hearing pundits repeating the line that the al Qaida terrorists represent only 10% of the total number of insurgents in Iraq as if that has some bearing on the violence there. It has nothing at all to do with numbers. It has to do with willingness to execute horrible acts that are in no way related to the number of people who would actually perpetrate such acts. For example, Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma. How many people and how much infrastructure does that require? Not very much. All one has to be willing to do is commit murder on a scale and with a brutality that others would have a problem doing. Same with terrorists in Iraq.

9/11 showed us that 20 people can kill thousands. The size of a group in no way corresponds to the level of violence that might emit from it. Nor does the level of violence reflect the level of support a group has. It simply means that they have the resources and the will to kill people. Building a car bomb is rather simple. It doesn't require a whole lot of people or infrastructure. And if two or three people can build one, the same two or three people can build a dozen of them. All they need is materials. It turns out that the materials are not that hard to come by. Every time someone is killed, there is a good chance a car has just become orphaned and available for use as a bomb platform. Heaven knows there is enough explosive stuff floating around there. Just go out into a field and dig, it seems. Building a hundred bombs could be done by a handful of people. You drive them out, park them, and an hour or a day or a week later you dial the number of the cell phone detonator and kaboom. Simple.

What is more important than the number of people involved in an organization is the number of acts that it is involved with. I believe (quite strongly) that al Qaida has been involved in a number of acts that is not in proportion with the number of their members. I also believe (again, quite strongly) that many of the acts were designed to precipitate additional acts by other groups and that these precipitated acts would not have happened without al Qaida being a catalyst. They might create a spectacular attack on a Shiite shrine and the next day attack some Sunnis in order to start open warfare between the groups. They light the fuse and then stand back to watch the fireworks resulting from it.

I firmly believe that the level of violence perpetrated by al Qaida in Iraq is not a linear relationship with the number of their members. So I am warning pundits, bloggers, talking heads of all stripe ... I am armed. I have a spring loaded dart gun that shoots darts with a suction cup on the end and if I EVER see anyone trying to minimize the impact of al Qaida in Iraq because of the number of people in that organization, I am going to let you have it. POW, right in the kisser or whatever I might hit that appears on my screen! Is that understood? Knock it off, it's silly.